It’s a shame that I graduated from college nearly five years ago, yet I took the fact that it was a right for me to be educated for granted. I think a lot of western students do the same. I had heard the statistics before that if you were in college, you were part of the 1% or 2% of the wealthiest people in the world. Certainly, I appreciated my education when I was in college. Yet, did I sleep through a few classes or cut them occasionally for a movie? Yes, sadly, I did.
In Kenya, education is a privilege, not a right- especially after the eighth grade. While visiting with our friends, the Muttais, in Kitale, we were watching the evening news. The topic of education rose in the broadcast. Eighth graders are required to take a standardized test every year to determine whether or not they will be allowed to go to high school. Yes, not just college, high school. A quarter of a million eighth graders are not going to high school next year. The newscasters responded to this by posting a poll for viewers to vote, “Do you think there is a problem in the education system? Yes or No.” Obviously, the answer is yes.
The Muttais run a Christian school, Legacy Schools, for children approximately 3 years old- 8th grade. They host seventh and eighth grade boarders on their campus. The motto of the school, you ask? “The Very Best.” After visiting many schools around the country of Kenya, I can honestly say that Legacy is indeed the very best that we witnessed.
Their high level of expectations start outside of the classrooms. The school has it’s own barbershop and tailor shop so that the students have no excuse but to look their best. They also have a school supply shop, so the students can purchase any basic school supplies they might need. Lastly, painted along the perimeter of the building are scripture verses from all throughout the Bible. It was not uncommon for us to hear whole assemblies reciting scripture together. I couldn’t help but reflect upon Deuteronomy 6:4-9,
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. “
These students are taught how to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind. If ever they forget the most important things they are learning, all they have to do is look at the buildings and they will see God’s word is there for all the rest of the world to see as well.
This overflows into how courteous and respectful these children are. Anytime we entered a classroom or assembly, they always responded in unison, “Good Morning, Madam. Good Morning, Sir. How are you today?” When passing students along the sidewalk or the soccer field, they would stop dead in their tracks to put their left arm across their right elbow, shake our hand, and either courtesy or bow. It’s hard enough to even get eye contact in the states from students this age. They made it a point to welcome their guests and be as polite as could be to their elders. (Not that we were even that elderly at 25 and 26 years old!)
Not only are they taught to be the very best outside of the classroom, they are taught the same values inside the classroom. Every time we would peak our heads into a classroom, we saw attentive, respectful children. Surrounding their desks were walls with various lessons on either chalkboards or poster boards. We’re talking diagrams of lungs, history of British colonization, arithmetic, and even verb tenses.
I don’t really know what I expected to see in Kenyan Classrooms. I know I did not expect to see so much depth of learning, though. Though the rest of the country is struggling, Legacy Schools is excelling in providing the best education possible to their students, all while teaching through a Biblical worldview. Their eighth graders have a high passing percentage rate and a majority of them are permitted to go to state funded high schools. (Private high schools are not permitted to exist my understanding).
While in Kenya, David’s and my primary task was to minister to schoolchildren. Our usual routine was that we would tell the story of Noah and then have the children draw pictures of what they had just heard. Even the very first classroom full of first and second graders near Chavakali had us astounded. We could tell how well they listened by the details in their drawing. Though we had only alluded to the fact that every human died except for Noah and his family, we saw several drawings with bodies of people floating in the water after God had shut the ark door. Talk about filling in the blanks! Their attention spans seemed much longer than those of the children in western culture. Maybe we don’t give our children enough of a chance to be patient here.
Our last evening with Legacy Schools, we were able to do some fun, yet educational things with the seventh and eighth grade boarders. This group of students goes to school from 8 AM-9PM, so a break in the normal routine was more than welcome. We did the normal Noah’s ark/drawing routine, which was a lot of fun since we made it a competition. The most fun was when we divided the entire room into teams and selected a small representation of five students from each side to answer questions for Bible Jeopardy. Somehow, we missed the memo that the students sat boys on one side of the room and girls on the other. Oh, that made it way more fun!
When I had written the questions out for Bible Jeopardy, David said, “Emily, you’ve got to remember that these are African kids. You’re making these questions way too complicated.” Resolved to give them a challenge, I kept my questions. Those students knew every single answer! For our Final Jeopardy Question, I was looking for a simple answer of, “Heaven,” when I asked the question, “Where is Jesus’ body?” One girl from the girls’ team about waived her arm off because she was so excited to say in her precious African-British accent, “At the right hand of the Father!!!” Yeah, these kids are getting an in- depth Biblical education on top of their basic education.
I tell these stories not just to brag on Kenyan schools. Obviously, many of them have issues that need resolutions based on the statistics for how many are allowed to go to high school. I chose to highlight Legacy Schools to share what hope there is for children yet in Kenya. They certainly can’t do it on their own. It takes many people and resources to keep the school going. They have immediate needs such as the extension of the boys’ dorm, a new generator, and more books for their school library. This is a prime example of a partnership that can truly make a difference for the people of Africa and most importantly for the Kingdom of Christ. Some of those children might be the ones who discover the cures for diseases, some may rally their country to healthy political standpoints, some may be mothers, some may be pastors, and all have the potential to disciple others to follow Christ after they have. They have got to have prayer as well as financial support. Wouldn’t it be a shame if just $3500 for a new addition to a dorm that would house over 100 male students prevented the next president of Kenya from receiving a world-class education through the lens of scripture? We can make a difference beyond our borders.
School Children at the first school we went to
Noah’s Ark Drawings after hearing the story